July 22, 2024

Spoiler Alert: Meralco deals San Miguel heartbreaks in past PBA crucial battles

Spoiler Alert: Meralco deals San Miguel heartbreaks in past PBA crucial battles
Art by Mitzi Solano

Meralco and San Miguel are midway in their battle for the PBA Season 48 Philippine Cup diadem.

Game 4 unfolds later, with the Bolts holding the 2-1 edge in their best-of-seven titular duel after bagging a 93-89 victory on their own strong showing in the late stages last Sunday, June 9.

Meralco holds the advantage in its head-to-head with San Miguel this conference three games to one, after first shocking the Beermen with a 95-92 win that denied the winningest franchise of a sweep at the end of the eliminations and repeating with a 93-86 stunner in Game 1.


Chris Newsome during Game 2 of Meralco's PBA Season 48 Philippine Cup joust with San Miguel last Friday, June 7 | Photo (c) Sherwin Vardeleon

The Bolts, eager to hoist their first-ever title, are gunning for a pivotal 3-1 advantage later at 7:30 p.m. against the defending champion Beermen determined to keep the trophy on their side.

But doing the impossible is not something new to Meralco as it has flattened powerhouse San Miguel in the past.


Chris Banchero savors the Meralco crowd's cheers during Game 2 | Photo (c) Sherwin Vardeleon

Could the Bolts draw confidence from their previous victories against the Beermen to reach the pinnacle this time?

One Sports looks back on the moments Meralco lorded over mighty San Miguel.

2017 GOVERNORS' CUP

In the 2017 Governor's Cup, Meralco subdued Grand Slam-seeking San Miguel, 104-101, in come-from-behind fashion at the end of eliminations.

Then reigning Best Import Allen Durham delivered the finishing touches as the Bolts completed their fightback from an 18-point deficit, 53-71, in the third period to secure the top seed and the twice-to-beat-edge in the quarterfinals.

The loss relegated the Beermen to the sixth spot, forcing San Miguel to face No. 3 Ginebra in the next round.

Durham scored a putback off his own miss to give Meralco the lead for good at 102-101 before burying a pair of pressure-packed free throws that capped off the match and his near triple-double output.

Durham wound up with 35 points, 13 boards and eight assists as the Bolts topped the rest of the field with a 9-2 record.

June Mar Fajardo led with 26 points and eight boards for the Beermen, who eventually saw their Grand Slam bid ended by the defending champion Gin Kings in the playoffs.

Ginebra used its twice-to-beat advantage to the hilt with a 104-84 victory.

2020 PHILIPPINE CUP

In a bubble setup in Clark, Pampanga, Meralco overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage and dethroned five-time defending champion San Miguel in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals.

Veteran Reynel Hugnatan and then rookie Aaron Black did the job for the Bolts, 78-71, before Cliff Hodge, Baser Amer, Hugnatan and Allein Maliksi delivered the finisher in a balanced effort in the rubber, 90-68, to book their maiden entry to the semifinals of the All-Filipino conference.

Meralco started strong in each match and held on in the face of fierce Beermen fightbacks on both occasions to score the huge upset.

The Bolts raced to a 33-17 advantage in the first half but had to stymie a San Miguel assault in the final five minutes of the fourth as the Beermen threatened within 67-71. But Hugnatan nailed a jumper and Black drilled in a triple to restore order at 76-67 with a little less than two minutes remaining and help force the sudden death.

The next match was a near mirror of the first as Meralco came out firing anew, setting the tone with a 21-11 lead in the first which it stretched to a 22-point spread, 40-18, in the second.

The Beermen summoned their championship experience as they once again trimmed the gap to just six, 37-43, at the onset of the third, but the Bolts quickly countered with a massive run to recover their 20-point lead on their way to posting their biggest advantage of the match at 28 points, 80-52, early in the fourth.

Meralco conquered an undermanned San Miguel side, which did not have then six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo who sat out the entire conference due to a shin injury, as well as Terrence Romeo, who exited the bubble early due to a hurt shoulder.

Alex Cabagnot was also sidelined in the Beermen's 71-78 loss as he nursed a strained hamstring. But the Bolts were also hit by the injury bug in the same match as Raymond Almazan hurt his knee two minutes into the contest after a collision with Von Pessumal. Both returned to action in the following do-or-die playoff duel.

2021 GOVERNORS' CUP

More than two years later, Meralco barged into its fourth straight Final Four appearance after once again downing San Miguel, 100-85, in the PBA Governors' Cup.

Leaning on reinforcement Tony Bishop on the offensive end and defenders led by Cliff Hodge, the twice-to-beat holder Bolts orchestrated a third quarter breakaway while preventing another explosion from prior import choice Shabazz Muhammad to advance to the semis.

Bishop dropped 32 points, 18 in the pivotal third, as Meralco scored a reversal of its 110-115 loss to the Beermen in the eliminations where the Bolts squandered a 26-point lead as Muhammad erupted for 57 points.

June Mar Fajardo was held to 12 points for San Miguel, CJ Perez also had 12 while Marcio Lassiter coughed up five. Terrence Romeo backed up Muhammad with 17.

Never letting up, the Bolts leaned on Chris Newsome in the fourth where he dropped eight of his 22 points as Meralco sustained its charge to send mighty San Miguel to the exits.

2024 PHILIPPINE CUP?

The San Miguel Beermen set their sights on title No. 30. | Photo (c) RM Chua

The Bolts are aiming to write the same storyline two seasons later, this time in the finals, against the fabled Beermen who are keen on keeping their epic winning tradition.

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